Back pain is one of the leading causes of worldwide disability, and it costs up to $200 billion a year in the US alone (cost of treatments, missed workdays, etc). Back pain can be quite difficult to treat and many people want to avoid relying on painkilling drugs, especially those that are potentially addictive. Chiropractic care is a treatment option that is completely drug-free and that promotes the body's own healing processes to lower pain and reduce disability.
Causes of back pain
In most cases, back pain has a simple/mechanical cause. This means that there is no underlying disease or condition and the pain is being caused by some sort of damage to the musculoskeletal system (e.g. joints, muscles, ligaments).
This damage can come from a variety of sources, including:
• trauma - sports injury, fall, work accident, etc
• poor posture
• sitting in an uncomfortable position
• wear and tear
In some cases, the back pain can be caused by a nerve becoming trapped from, for example, a slipped disc. When this happens, the nerve is trapped between two or more elements of the muscles or skeleton and it sends pain signals to the brain. If left untreated, trapped nerves can prolong or worsen back pain because of the way the body tries to deal with the problem. It can, for example, create swelling and scar tissue around the nerve, and this can cause stiffness and reduce the range of motion.
How can chiropractic care help with back pain?
Chiropractors specialize in diagnosing and treating problems with the spine. Chiropractic care is a recommended treatment for lower back pain by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR), who state that "Relief of discomfort can be accomplished most safely with nonprescription medication and/or spinal manipulation".
Spinal manipulation involves the chiropractor using high speed and short thrusts on the joints of the spine to improve its function, reduce pain, and restore the range of motion. Mobilization is often used alongside manipulation, and this involves using lower speed manipulations, as well as movement and stretching, to increase the range of motion.
A long-term study that followed patients with back pain over the course of a year found that this type of manipulative therapy was more effective than care from a general practitioner and physiotherapy in terms of a sustained reduction in pain and improvement in physical functioning (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1881307/).
As well as manipulative therapy, chiropractic practitioners are also trained in providing a wide variety of other treatment options that can help treat back pain. These can include:
• stretching exercises
• heat and cold therapy
• soft tissue massage
• posture advice
• exercise and nutrition advice
• workplace advice - including ergonomic support, workstation improvements, seating arrangements
Chiropractic care is one of the leading treatments of back pain and has the advantage of being drug-free and very safe. Chiropractic practitioners can offer a range of treatment options that can best support the patient in recovering their back pain and improving their quality of life.